Boston Bruins: 6 Prospects with a Good Chance to Play in the World Juniors

Al DanielCorrespondent IIDecember 1, 2012

Alexander Khokhlachev is all but a shoo-in to play in the World Junior Championship in from of his Russian home crowd.
Alexander Khokhlachev is all but a shoo-in to play in the World Junior Championship in from of his Russian home crowd.Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Last month, the Boston Bruins had four draft picks representing the Ontario Hockey League as part of the CHL’s annual All-Star exhibition series with Team Russia.

In turn, Anthony Camara, Seth Griffith, Dougie Hamilton and Malcolm Subban are all natural candidates to play for Team Canada in the World Junior Championship tournament later this month.

The host Russians already had another Boston draftee in Alexander Khokhlachev on their touring team when they faced a pair apiece of Ontario League, Quebec League and Western League teams.

Team USA will release its WJC training camp roster this Tuesday, with subsequent cuts to come on Dec. 23—three days before the tournament begins. The preliminary roster will likely be laden with holdovers from the program’s August camp, including Charlestown, Mass. native and Boston University freshman Matt Grzelcyk.

For what it’s worth, Grzelcyk enrolled at BU straight out of the U.S. National Team Development Program. Earlier this calendar year, he helped the 18-and-under Americans win the gold in their World Championship, his third international excursion.

Assuming the same set of 11 blueliners from Team USA’s evaluation camp are invited back, Grzeclyk will be vying to earn one of the seven roster openings in that position. Only one defensive participant in the previous camp, Jacob Trouba, is a World Junior veteran.

To the north, Hamilton is among the Canadian WJC veterans who will vie for a return trip to the prestigious holiday tournament. His brimming maturity at the amateur level—which as of Saturday morning had translated to an easy OHL-leading 31 assists and 38 points by defensemen—will be virtually impossible to see past.

Among all skaters, only Hamilton’s fellow Niagara Ice Dog, Ryan Strome, has more points than Griffith, who is piloting the defending league champion London Knights for the second straight season.

Entering Saturday’s action, Griffith is the best individual producer on the best team in the league. His Knights boast an OHL-high 21 wins and 44 points.

One potential caveat, as was addressed by Knights’ reporter John Matisz, is the NHL lockout-induced gridlock among forwards. A multitude of presumably would-be NHL rookies are instead lingering in the OHL, QMJHL or WHL for another year, and thus, are eligible for another WJC.

As it happened, when their conglomeration of OHL elites met the Russians on Nov. 12, Griffith was on the starting line with Camara, opposite Camara’s full-time Barrie Colts partner, Mark Scheifele.

Realistically speaking, the perpetual depth of Canada’s candidate pool poses a greater challenge to Camara than it does to any of his fellow Bruins prospects hoping for a WJC passport. However, his prolific chemistry with Scheifele—a high-ranking Winnipeg Jets draftee and previous WJC participant—may serve as one thick patch of ice for his candidacy to stand on.

Subban, who saw almost 32 full minutes of scoreless action in the Team OHL cage Nov. 8, will be in congested competition with at least seven other netminders who partook in the Subway Super Series.

In a Friday blog post, the authoritative Bob McKenzie of TSN had this to say of Subban’s roster hopes:

“Boston Bruins first-rounder Malcolm Subban of the Belleville Bulls is a potential No. 1 stopper and while he’s guaranteed to get an invite to the final camp (and quite likely is destined to be on the team), there are some hungry contenders also in the mix.”

If McKenzie’s best-case prophecy comes to fruition, Subban may find himself tasked with solving a Russian machine that has become somewhat of a WJC nemesis to his country. (If nothing else, Canada and Russia are slated face off in the last round robin match New Year's Eve.)

Last winter, in a rematch of Russia’s stunning gold-medal triumph in 2011, none other than Khokhlachev set up two goals and then added his own, all unanswered, in the second period of the semifinals. That swelled a 2-1 lead into a 5-1 gap and paced Russia to a 6-5 win over Hamilton and Canada.

Khokhlachev’s primary partners in that decisive outburst were Edmonton’s first overall pick last spring, Nail Yakupov, and touted Washington Capitals farmhand Yevgeni Kuznetsov.

On a balanced Russian strike force that saw no one tally more than four points in the six games, Khokhlachev was one of five multi-goal scorers in the Subway Super Series this past month. He supplied his club’s only power-play conversion in the series.

The regulars on Russia’s roster in that series is likely a near, if not exact, roll call for the next major event on their home ice in Ufa.